Canvas and the textbook website both track student progress, so that I can see who is keeping up. I assign a portion of the class participation grade for completing this preparation.
The next big change is in how I use class time. Because students have spent time listening to my lecture already, I reduce the amount of required class attendance by 50%, dividing each class into an optional practice session and a mandatory case-based discussion session. This keeps the overall workload within Schulich guidelines, and helps students cope with their overall workload. This is important for their mental health.
Each class now consists of:
- A completely optional 80- to 90-minute practical “lab”
- A short break
- An 80- to 90-minute case study, which all students are expected to attend.
In the lab, I go through basic accounting problems without covering any new material. So far, most students have chosen to attend this part of the class. I’m not sure whether this is because of FOMO or just because they appreciate the very basic coaching that the lab gives them. In the second half of the class, we explore the financial statements of a specific company or tackle some advanced topic like nonprofit accounting, environmental reporting, or audit failure, using specific examples that help make the topic concrete. I do not post the material for the case study in advance; rather, I walk them through the case to get them quickly to the focal point, and then manage the case discussion, often using small groups to explore different facets of the case.
Students have been extremely positive about this approach to the course. For me, the biggest positive has been seeing the effect on grades. The class GPA is up by a full grade point, and the gains have all come in the bottom half of the class. In other words, the non-accounting, non-finance students are all supported in mastering the material better, at a “competent” level, which some of them failed to achieve with my previous approaches. Meanwhile, the more accounting-focused students are rewarded with shorter class time and more intense discussions of the advanced case material, because their fellow students are all better prepared.
The real benefit to me is going to be this term, when I won’t have to record any lectures. All the hard work was done last term. I can update individual slides or even replace entire lectures whenever I want, but for the most part, the lectures are good to go. I can just concentrate on connecting with the students.
Prof. Cameron Graham is the host of Podcast or Perish, a podcast about academic research and why it matters. You can find it on your favourite podcast platform and at www.podcastorperish.ca. If you have any questions about how he uses Canvas, please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.